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Back to school, baby!

August 2, 2014

Y'all are going back to school, and I'm having a baby. The end result is the same, though, right? Less sleep, more stress, and a house that's never clean? The difference is in the preparation. I've got my hospital bag packed (wishful thinking since I still have a month to go...), but how is your back-to-school checklist looking? Here are some old posts that you might want to check out as you prepare to start the 2014-2015 school year:

  1. Utilize your space. If you have the luxury of having your own classroom, consider filling your walls with high frequency vocabulary and other useful resources instead of the traditional posters that you ordered from Teacher's Discovery® a billion years ago. I remember attending an ESL workshop years ago in which the presenter (I forget who it was) talked about how all of the pretty things with which we fill our room become white noise as the year moves on. The goal of every teacher should be to fill his or her walls with resources with which students interact! My students refer to the various high frequency vocab posters that I have posted daily while reading, writing, speaking, and listening. They acquire the vocabulary that they reference most frequently with almost no effort and zero stress! Download the posters that I use here (in Spanish and in French, thanks to Wendy Farabaugh), but also take time to check out this post from Elizabeth Dentlinger and this post from Crystal Barragán.
  2. Write your syllabi. Nothing earth-shattering here! The Creative Language Class had a contest last year to find the most exciting syllabus, and Colleen Lee-Hayes (@colleesensei) turned her syllabus into an infograph (full post here). My syllabus is neither exciting nor spectacular, but it serves the purpose. The twist that I added to it last year was to assign a syllabus homework, which I strongly recommend to everyone! It was a great way for me to get feedback from ALL students and parents, even before Open House! It ensured that students and parents alike read through the syllabus, and it helped me to address questions and concerns before they became real issues. Read this post about my Syllabus Homework for more information.
  3. Assign seats. The great thing about assigning seats for the first day is that you don't have to do it; you just have to print out some papers and let students do the work. Telling students where to sit on the first day of school is very important, because it eliminates anxiety on their part and immediately sets the tone that you are the authority in the classroom. However, the way that I assign seats is fun and interactive, which further serves to put students at ease and gives them the sense that this will be a collaborative classroom. Read about how I assign seats and download the cards that I use here. If anyone wants to send me the translations of the six characters in another language, I'd gladly add it to the doc!
  4. Plan to learn their names. Learning your students' names quickly takes some work, but it is essential to the establishment of a community of belonging and respect. I make it my goal to know all of my students' names by the second day of school, although there are usually a few that I don't get until Day 3. The two strategies that I use are distributing name card tents and taking students' photos while holding their name cards so that I can study and memorize them before Day 2.
  5. Write your lesson plans. There are lots of great ideas out there. Cynthia Hitz shared a bunch on her blog, and this tag archive from my blog contains many different ideas for lesson plans that you can use to start off the year in different levels.
  6. Compile your sub binder. In addition to preparing emergency sub plans, I always put together a binder that includes everything a sub would ever want or need to know about my class--seating charts, procedures, rosters, health information, emergency drills, discipline, and more (described in #1 here). Download some of my sub plans here, or use them for inspiration to create your own for use in your own classes! For more ideas about how to handle sub days, visit this tag archive.
  7. Develop classroom procedures. I think that I'll post more on this a different day, but one of the procedures that I always make sure to cover is "What do I do when I finish my work early?". Check out this post about my Extra Time folders, and consider putting together your own!
CC 2009 Leland Francisco

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